David Cronenberg

Homework

Somnambulist Alarm Clock: If You Must Stare Into the Screen

From bronze to digital, Tyler Kline’s art spans the ages, melding ideas of time, space, metaphysics, and humanity into packages of cast metal that last forever, or into Vine videos that live for seconds in a Twitter feed. Tyler is fearless in his use of materials, generous in his treatment of others in the art community, and one of the smartest artists working in Philadelphia today. He’s a member of the Little Berlin collective and by day he manages the Sculpture shop and the bronze forge at University of the Arts and curates several art spaces at that university.

-Roberta Fallon, past curator

Regarding phenomenology and the sensate, one of the greatest functions of art is to open new ways of feeling, thus eliciting new modes of thought. The following is an abbreviated list of media that attempt to map the landscape of the heart, with a network I created to explore artistic and intellectual connections in Philadelphia and throughout history.

Videodrome, Shivers, The Brood, and eXistenZ, films by David Cronenberg. Using horror as a language to speak as a prophet, these films weave a caustic poetry narrating a tale of a visceral existence mediated by an artificial cognizance.

The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, novel by Carson McCullers. Whispered gospel from the haunted, secret South.

Audition, a film by Takashi Miike. Tight steel tension lurking and staggering toward a transgressive resolution.

Endgame, a play by Samuel Beckett. One of the most hilarious situations ever wrestled into existence, pointing a fierce klieg light toward the more absurd aspects of the human condition.

Auch Zwerge Haben Klein Angefangen, a film by Werner Herzog. Holy fools and anarchist clowns define authority through pandemonium.

Synchronicity: An Acausal Connecting Principle, a book by Carl Jung. A noble attempt to plot one of the most elusive yet inescapable forces of the universe.

Delta of Venus, a novel by Anaïs Nin. Prose as lucid and phantasmagoric as it is subversive.

Rigadoon, a novel by Louis-Ferdinand Céline . . . problematic . . stylish . . . assaulting . . . compassionate . . . doomed . . . jovial . . . beastly . . . ravaging . . .

The Impossible, a book by George Bataille. Disorientation as stasis and clarity.

Welcome to the Desert of the Real, a book by Slavoj Žižek. Draws much needed connections in our post Sept 11th psychosocial labyrinth.

Kikujiro, a film by Takeshi Kitano. Bizarre take on the father-son road movie that is so much more.

Being and Time by Martin Heidegger. Extremely important work, dense; I suggest the uninitiated first watch Being in the World and allow Hubert Dreyfus act as a lens into the concept of Dasein.

The Blood of Others, a novel by Simone de Beauvoir. Meditation on what it means to be free.

Nausea by Jean Paul Sartre. This novel meant a lot to me as a young man when I read it during my breaks as a graveyard dishwasher in Athens, GA; it contains a great passage regarding the autodidactic.

F♯ A♯ ∞, album by Godspeed You! Black Emperor. “The car is on fire and there is no driver at the wheel.” This statement helped usher in the 21st Century.

2666 by Roberto Bolaño. A novel as an infernal biological mechanism, an animated corpse that bears witness.

Defixiones Will and Testament, a live performance album by Diamanda Galas. Art as psychic warfare against the forces of despair.

Hard to be a God, a film by Aleksei German. A spectral madhouse of what might have been, a horror, a vacuous portrait of a society spectacularly in disarray. “…it began with the destruction of the University.” Truer words were never burned into celluloid.

Negative Horizon, a book by Paul Virilio. Tackles issues of speed, scale, late capital, globalization, the military industrial complex, and the role of the urban metropole orchestrating this chaotic dance.

Kurt Gödel’s incompleteness theorems, the life of Paul Erdős, and As If Summoned from the Void: The Life of Alexandre Grothendieck. All elucidate a much deeper relationship with the universe that what we merely observe.

OITNB, Jessica Anne Clark, Curate This

Homework

Treat Yourself

Jessica Anne Clark paints, draws, curates, reads voraciously (ask about joining her sci-fi book club), and writes. She is a staggeringly intelligent and empathic human being which makes her an amazing collaborative partner. She wonders what your life is like, who you love, what you love, what kinds of things decorate your house. She wonders these things because thoughtfulness is her superpower and because she comes from a theater and film background. Her work retains these qualities. When you encounter one of her paintings or drawings, you feel as if you have interrupted a staged scene and for a moment, her super power rubs off on you and you begin to wonder and care about her lovingly depicted characters. When she’s not working in the studio, she’s helping me curate and install exhibitions through my pop-up project, CHampions of Empty Rooms (CHER), she’s organizing Philly Art Talks, or she’s managing Manifesto-ish collective’s online artist in residence program. If she tells you to read something or look at something, you should do it because she’s thought a lot about it.

-Veronica Cianfrano, curator

Growing up, one of my mother’s favorite phrases was “de gustibus non est disputandum.” In colloquial English this loosely translates to “there is no accounting for taste.” She’d cart this puppy out whenever my sister and I would turn our nose up at something my mother enjoyed (be it food or entertainment) or when we’d fight amongst ourselves on matters of preference. Her words have stayed with me and as such, I am always hesitant to make recommendations regarding any subject where taste is concerned. However, after much consideration I have comprised the following list of items for your viewing/reading pleasure. They have something to offer beyond pure enjoyment and entertainment. Many provide insight into relevant social and historical issues as well as observations on the human condition. Though you may not share some of the ideas expressed in these works, they provide an opportunity for discussion and understanding.

On the Beach, Jessica Anne Clark, Curate This

1. On the Beach by Nevil Shute (book). This book takes place in Australia, post-World War III. A nuclear war has devastated the northern hemisphere and Australia and New Zealand are among the last nations awaiting an inescapable radioactive cloud to make its way south. In a perfect world, I would hope this book would have the power to truly drive home the dangers of military escalation and nuclear warfare. Super important, super relevant. There are plenty of problematic elements to this book. As a product of 1950’s, On the Beach’s presentation of women and gender roles is dated. There are just two main female characters: one a housewife/stay at home mom type (Mary) and one pseudo-manic pixie dream girl (Moira) drinking her way through the apocalypse. Mary spends most of the novel worried about her garden, in complete denial of the coming destruction. In the throws of radiation poisoning, she is found struggling to place mothballs in all the closets. In contrast, Moira’s coping mechanism is brandy and parties. She forms a relationship with an American Navy captain and through this friendship, her last days are improved. While I do not enjoy encountering narrow and ill-defined portrayals of women in literary products from the past, reading these types of works gives me an appreciation for how far we’ve come as a society. On the whole, On the Beach’s flaws do not outweigh the import of its message and the profound sadness I felt upon reaching the last page.

2. Inverted World by Christopher Priest. This book creates a compelling metaphor regarding the subjectivity of our experiences and how our experience of reality can be skewed. I’ve already said too much.

Love and Friendship, Jessica Anne Clark, Curate This, PMA3. Love and Friendship (The Sacrifice of the Arrows of Love on the Altar of Friendship) by Jean-Pierre-Antoine Tassaert. I first encountered this piece during a trip to the PMA. It fast became one of my favorite items in the PMA’s collection. To me, this sculpture exactly encapsulates how art enables us to make connections to artists of the past. It also demonstrates how an artwork can feel like a relic while simultaneously feeling fresh and relevant to the present day. Love and Friendship implies that the movement of burning desire towards far less tempestuous feelings of friendship is a timeless cycle, rather than a product of modernity. At times the past seems so far and foreign; artworks like this circumvent those impressions.

4. Something you don’t like. I think it can be important to force yourself to read/watch/listen to something you don’t like (or think you don’t like). You may be surprised or you might just come to understand something about people who are fans of the things you abhor.

OITNB, Jessica Anne Clark, Curate This

5. Episode 12 (and part of episode 13) of season four of Orange is the New Black. This is a cheat because you kind of have to see the entire series for this episode to really hit home. Partial SPOILERS to follow. This episode tackles the subject of law enforcement brutality and race (the case of Eric Garner comes to mind, specifically). A longtime and much beloved character (who had been in all four seasons of OITNB) is unintentionally killed during a peaceful prison protest. There’s nothing anyone can to do bring back the dead and it often feels like there’s nothing we can do to stop the same thing from happening over and over. This episode feels very of-the-moment in light of events of the past few years/weeks/days. Critics of the show (and this season in particular) call out the use of serious issues for entertainment purposes as being tasteless and exploitative. These arguments cannot be ignored and create an opportunity for important discussions regarding race and the representation of race in popular entertainment. OITNB is definitely a flawed show, but nowhere else will you find depictions of such a wide variety of women’s stories, presenting women of all sizes, shapes, and colors. This isn’t a perfect show but perhaps it’s paving the way for new types of series.

6. The Killing. While I’m hesitant to recommend everyone partake in murder-for-entertainment shows, I think this series stands out in a couple of ways. Each episode represents one day in the murder investigation of a teenager. In this way, the pacing is slowed. This allows the show to really take its time to come to the conclusion. Time usually feels so sped up in TV series/movies, so this is a nice departure. The Killing is just as much about those affected by death as it is about discovering whodunnit. Also, the show does an excellent job of highlighting why circumstantial evidence isn’t always dependable. Just because someone looks guilty doesn’t mean they are.

FRONTLINE, Jessica Anne Clark, Curate This7. Frontline (PBS documentary series). Each episode of Frontline is essentially a rich investigation on a compelling subject. Frontline has reported on concussions in football, mental illness in prison, physician-assisted suicide, and more. Some episodes focus on an issue/topic at large, others follow a specific person (or persons) and the specific issues they deal with on a daily basis. The New Asylums centers on mental health issues and how prisons have become a repository for the mentally ill (especially people with no support system). Country Boys follows two teenagers coming of age in Appalachia. Watching Frontline can feel a little like an “eat your peas” viewing experience in that the subject matter is not always easy to swallow: the reports are often heart wrenching and may leave you feeling a little hopeless . . . but it’s good for you.

8. Burn This (Lanford Wilson), specifically one night in the run of a Syracuse Stage production of this play in 1999. This night at the theater felt like magic. One of the things I’ve come to value most about theater is the possibility of variation within a run. One night will never be exactly the same as the next. This can cut both ways. You may attend on an off night, a night where actors were not at their best. Or, you could be present on a night where the actors are firing on all cylinders, everything is clicking exactly right and you are invigorated with the energy crackling on stage. That night at Syracuse Stage was one of those nights. I am recommending the performance rather than the play because it is the performance that has stayed with me all these years, not the story. Instead of teleporting back to 1999, take a chance and see some theater. You may just hit one of those magic nights.

9. Translations by Brian Friel. This is a play about language/communication/communication breakdown. It also has to do with cultural identity as well as “cultural imperialism” (thanks, wikipedia). The play takes place in small, fictional Irish town in the mid 1800’s. Issues between the Irish and English during occupation factor in heavily. Language is so essential to our daily lives, but it is flawed and fragile. Can we be understood without a common verbal language? Are we really being understood in our common tongue?

Anomalisa, Charlie Kaufman, Jessica Anne Clark, Curate This

10. Anomalisa (Charlie Kaufman). This film exemplifies the strength of visual storytelling. On paper, Anomalisa is the story of a man who is really just a terrible, completely self-involved asshole. He’s so wrapped up in his own feelings of dissatisfaction that he is unable to differentiate between any of the people he comes into contact with as the movie progresses. Kaufman allowed us to experience the world as this man does, and it is not a pleasant world. Perhaps you too will be left conflicted, left with the odd feeling that you’ve just enjoyed something you shouldn’t have.

11. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Charlie Kaufman). I saw this a year or so after breaking up with my first serious boyfriend, the absolute right/wrong time to see this film. Anyone who has had the exquisitely terrible/kind of not terrible feelings of heartbreak would do well to see this movie.

Moonstruck, Nicholas Cage, Olympia Dukakis, Jessica Anne Clark, Curate This

12. Moonstruck: Olympia Dukakis. Cher. Nicolas Cage. Treat yourself.

13. Kindred by Octavia Butler. I read this book in one night a couple of years ago. It had been a long time since I had read a book that I could not put down when bedtime rolled around. This time travel story-meets-investigation of slavery in America allows us to experience life on a pre-Civil War Maryland plantation through the eyes of an African American woman from 1976. The effect is really powerful. Why is this relevant? I’d say it’s at least relevant to any and all Americans because this is our heritage. The time of (legal) slavery in America is still so close to the surface. It’s wasn’t that long ago in the grand scheme of things. In many ways we are still feeling the effects of that point in our nation’s history. There is a poignancy to sending a woman living in post-Civil Rights era America to pre-Civil War era America, especially in light of the current events (re: police shootings and the Black Lives Matter movement). America has yet to reach a point of full fairness and equal treatment for all its inhabitants, for all races and sexes. While 1978 may afford a better quality of life/more rights for an African American woman than 1815, and 2016 may have even more opportunities/possibilities than 1978, things still aren’t what they should be. The scales are still tipped: in this way the specters of past wrongs have not been vanquished.

Yours as Much as Mine, Maria Dumlao

Homework

Picking Up a Pencil and Other Directions

Maria Dumlao works with photography, artists’ books, installation, performance, sound, and video. Her fantastic exhibition at Vox Populi last September, Next to Nothing, consisted of three works: one single-channel video, a multi-channel video, and a portable record player with a 7-inch painted vinyl record, spinning. The video, Yours As Much As Mine, isolates everyday house-hold objects in a suspended animation which takes these objects out of context and takes the viewer out of this world.

For her contribution to Curate This, I asked Maria to give me a set of items that everybody should read, view, watch, etc.

-Julianna Foster, curator

Some homework for Curate This‘ readers, in no particular order:

  • Read “Some Sound Observations” written by Pauline Oliveros. This essay appears in the anthology Audio Culture: Readings in Modern Music, edited by Christoph Cox and Daniel Warner. Here’s a pdf I found online.
  • Read this sentence and tell me you can’t hear the lamp in your room, the electricity behind the walls, the creaking beams in your house, the construction outside, and the motorbikes in Philly. See if you succeed in unhearing them.
  • John Whitney, “Catalogue” 1961, 16mm film (color and sound) 9 minutes. A digital video from the film is currently exhibited at the MoMA, but here it is in YouTube. Feast on abstraction in motion.

John Whitney, “Catalogue” 1961

  • Oblique Strategies, written instructions by Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt. When you’re in the studio and you just need to take a break, get ready to pick a card from a deck and “play.” Be open to diversions. If you want to play with me, I’ll post one a day on Instagram.

Oblique Strategies, written instructions by Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt

  • Visit the non-western wing of PMA, the Met, or any big museum. Whether it’s called primitive, pre-Columbian, African, pre-historic, Oceanic, whatever it is, it’s a reminder that art (and the art world) as we know it is one of many narratives. An example I like to ponder is the ubiquitous crucifix and how its symbolism was used by some cultures as a representation of the cyclical birth/life/death/underworld before the Christian conquistadors colonized.
  • Food of the Gods: The Search for the Original Tree of Knowledge (A Radical History of Plants, Drugs, and Human Evolution), written by Terence McKenna in 1992, is relevant due to our search into altered states of consciousness and as an elucidation of many of our sorrows, be it addiction, materialism, and the fear of self-awareness. Solutions have been in front of us all along.

Food of the Gods by Terence McKenna

  • Sharpen a #2 pencil or take hold of a Sharpie. With these power tools, draw/write what you would otherwise post in social media. Try it for a day and don’t stop if you can help it.

Maria Dumlao pencils

  • Living Photograph: Chris with Teacup on YouTube. I discovered this one-minute video in 2007 (YouTube was established in 2005) and I don’t know who the maker is or what it is about. I can’t believe it’s still up after 9 years. I revisit it to be reminded of the possibilities of YouTube and how it has now become our everyday landscape. It’s not as strange as anything we see now, but it’s a prominent early memory.
Keep me out of prison_small

Homework

Being a Killjoy: the Comics of Beth Heinly

Roberta Fallon’s reviews and features have appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Daily News, Philadelphia Weekly, artnet, Art on Paper, Art Review and elsewhere. From 1999-2011, she was the art critic for Philadelphia Weekly writing a weekly column of criticism and features, and from 2000-2005 she wrote the Philadelphia Story column for artnet.com. In 2003, she co-founded The Artblog, which has been recognized for excellence twice by Art in America, and was a finalist for the prestigious Warhol/Creative Capital Arts Writers Award. It is also one of Philadelphia’s most well-known and prized arts publications.

-Julius Ferraro, Curate This co-founder

Beth Heinly is a leader in the alternative arts community in Philadelphia. She’s talented, opinionated and original. No matter what she’s working on—comics, a performance art piece, an exhibition or her experimental performance art festival, Beth works from her life and her passions. As a member of two important alternative galleries—Little Berlin and Vox Populi—she has curated and shown work by herself and others. Her interest in science led to a wonderful art and science exhibit at Little Berlin; as a collector of art, she curated a memorable collections show at Vox Populi; as a zine maker and collector, she organized a zine library at Little Berlin that now is archived at Temple University Libraries.

Beth Heinly performance art, Weryd Wimmen

On Artblog, I am on the receiving end of Beth’s funny and wise The 3:00 Book comic. Every Monday I anticipate Beth’s comic with the same eagerness I feel when cracking open a fortune cookie—I’m looking for a pun, a bon mot, some wise words. While a fortune cookie rarely lives up to my hopes, Beth’s comics deliver. Sometimes salty, sometimes sweet and always beautifully composed, Beth’s comics reverberate.

The 3:00 Book has a Charlie Brown innocence but without the sugar coating. Both Peanuts and The 3:00 Book praise the simple things in life. For Beth, there’s a good sandwich, her cat Zion, and vacuuming (yes, actually). For Charlie Brown, there’s baseball and his dog Snoopy.

Charlie_Brown_(official_image)

The 3:00 Book characters (a thinly-veiled Beth, her boyfriend, and a naïve, snobby girl with curly hair) can be biting and mean or sweet as pie. No matter which extreme, the encounters ring true and come from someone who’s a student of human behavior and has been on the giving and receiving end of some fraught exchanges.

Drawn in a beautiful and reductivist style that’s satisfying for its clean lines and generous white space, Beth’s comics are complete art—from concept to execution. I highly recommend you take a look. Watch for her Open Call Guerilla Outdoor Performance Festival (OCGOPF) this summer in Rittenhouse Square and Collins Park. And here’s some of her other work.

Here are a dozen of my favorite The 3:00 Book comics. The titles are mine, not the artist’s.

Trying to please people and how that sometimes works out

Trying to please people, Beth Heinly, 3:00 Comics, artblog

Deflecting praise

Deflecting praise, Beth Heinly, 3:00 Comics, artblog

Being a killjoy

Being a killjoy, Beth Heinly, 3:00 Comics, artblog

Being a killjoy 2

Being a killjoy 2, Beth Heinly, 3:00 Comics, artblog

Phone etiquette

Phone etiquette, Beth Heinly, 3:00 Comics, artblog

Sleep

Sleep, Beth Heinly, 3:00 Comics, artblog

Failure of imagination

Failure of imagination, Beth Heinly, 3:00 Comics, artblog

Facing facts in a relationship

Facing facts in a relationship, Beth Heinly, 3:00 Comics, artblog

The lure of pretending

The lure of pretending, Beth Heinly, 3:00 Comics, artblog

Fitting in

Fitting in, Beth Heinly, 3:00 Comics, artblog

Human/animal interaction

Human animal interaction, Beth Heinly, 3:00 Comics, artblog

Anger management

Anger management, Beth Heinly, 3:00 Comics, artblog

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Homework

Living Inquiries into Art and Design

Angela McQuillan is a mixed-media artist and curator based in Philadelphia. Her art practice as a whole is a study of various ways that art and science intersect and inform one another. Her ideas involve experiencing the living world with infinite curiosity and appreciation, while coming up with unique solutions to problems through artistic and scientific investigation. Angela is a former member of the Little Berlin collective and currently works as the Curator of the Esther Klein Gallery at The Science Center in University City.

In a previous piece that I wrote for Curate This, I mention that compared to other cities Philadelphia does not have many opportunities for artists to utilize biological materials as an art medium. As the potential of this medium becomes more recognized worldwide, our city has begun to take interest. A new course at the University of Pennsylvania responds to this issue and offers a curriculum integrating both disciplines. Starting its first class in fall 2015, Biological Design, taught by Orkan Telhan and Karen Hogan, investigates ways that biological materials and processes can be used creatively by designers and artists.

At the beginning of the semester, students were assumed to have no background in biology. Over the course of a few months, they were exposed to various laboratory research methods and concepts that culminated in a final project and an exhibition. In December 2015, this exhibition opened to the public at Penn’s Morgan Gallery featuring the work of students who had taken the very first biological design course. BYO: Four Inquiries into Biological Design presented four unique and diverse projects exploring the interface of biology, art and design. I was able to attend this exhibition to get a closer look at these projects.

STABILIMENTUM by Mónica Butler, Rebecca Van Sciver and Jiwon Woo

Named after the structure of a spider’s web, Stablilimentum is a wearable plastic face mask that wraps around the head, with a small dome-shaped compartment strategically placed in front of the mouth housing a single orb-weaver spider. The idea is for the spider to construct a web that acts as an air filter for the wearer. The Oxford Silk Group at the University of Oxford recently discovered that the “glue” coating on threads of spider silk not only sticks to insects, but also toxic aerosols and pesticides. Effectively, spider webs can remove toxins from the air and act as naturally produced air filters that are completely biodegradable. Additionally, these webs can also be used as pollution monitoring devices, since the shape of a spider’s web changes depending on the types of pollutants it has ingested.

When not being worn the mask is placed onto a “recharging” station where the spider is fed with flies and is able to regenerate a new web. A symbiotic relationship is created between human and spider while creating a (very) unique fashion statement.

The presentation of this project included a physical prototype of the face mask containing a live spider, and various containers displaying an assortment of webs and flies. I was struck with curiosity on what it would be like to wear a live spider on my face. Any time I encounter a spider, I am terrified and I have the overcoming urge to get as far away from it as possible. I wonder if this is an instinct that can be easily overcome through exposure, or is arachnophobia deeply ingrained in my psyche as some sort of evolved trait? This piece provides an interesting commentary on the way that humans typically react to arthropods, whether rational or not. While many spiders are dangerous, most are harmless and can actually be beneficial to humans if we can find a way to overcome our fear and allow them into our personal space. I just can’t get over the idea of one accidentally crawling into my mouth . . .

Mouth spider! Image by Angela McQuillan

KHITOPHONY by Jenny Ho and Wing Dyana So

Inside of a plexiglass terrarium, small tambourines made out of chitosan (a bioplastic that dissolves in water) were laid out on a bed of soil surrounded by plants. A musical number was performed live for the audience which included the chitosan tambourines accompanied by guitar and clarinet. To activate the tambourines, one of the artists poured water onto the top of the terrarium structure, causing it to drip down directly onto the chitosan. The water droplets created a soft and peaceful rhythm that was amplified into speakers, evoking a feeling of tranquility reminiscent of the calm after a rainstorm. At the end of the ensemble performance, the water dissolved the tambourines, turning them into plant fertilizer. The ephemeral nature of performance was emphasized by the temporariness of the instruments themselves, which only last for a single song.

Chitosan is a derivative of chitin, a sugar obtained from the exoskeletons of shellfish including cicadas and considered to be one of the most abundant organic materials on earth. Researchers at the Wyss Institute at Harvard recently developed a new way to process chitosan so that it can be used to fabricate large complex shapes by casting or injection molding. Not only is this plastic fully biodegradable, but it is actually beneficial because it releases nutrients back into the soil upon degradation. With all of the negative environmental effects of traditional synthetic plastic, chitosan offers a promising alternative for the future of plastic . . . and music.

Stabilimentum. Image by Angela McQuillan

SEEPSCAPE by James Bartolozzi, Sarah Krueger and Morgan Snyder

One of the more technically complex projects, Seepscape is a product made out of 3D printed plastic that aims to expand the surface area of deep sea ecosystems while reducing methane emissions. A “cold seep” is an area on the ocean floor where methane-rich seepage can occur. These areas are devoid of sunlight, causing organisms to rely instead on chemosynthetic derived energy. More simply, organisms use methane as a resource. Seepscape is a modular structure designed in a continuous gyroid shape, intended to be placed on the ocean floor at the site of a methane seep. Methane eating bacteria are the first organisms to colonize the structure, followed by mussels who derive their nutrients from the bacteria and deposit calcium carbonate.

After a period of time the structure would be removed from the ocean allowing humans to harvest the mussels for sustainable animal feed, and to harvest the calcium carbonate for sustainable plastic production. When calcium carbonate is used as filler in plastic manufacturing, less energy is spent in fabrication and the carbon footprint is dramatically reduced.

Seepscape was displayed as a fabricated 3D printed structure, placed inside of a tank as a mock-up of the ocean floor. Its gyroid surface is fascinating because it contains no straight lines and has the ability to reflect light and function as a photonic crystal, which can be seen in the iridescent appearance of the scales of a butterfly’s wing or the shell of a Japanese beetle. This creates a labyrinth of pathways to slow down the travel of light or gas through a designated space. Seepscape is a completely man made object that is designed to integrate seamlessly with nature. It reminds me of Makerbot’s Project Shelter, where 3D printed plastic shells were created for hermit crabs in need of new homes. The line between what is artificial and what is “natural” is easily blurred, and we are reminded of one of the most amazing traits of biological organisms: their ability to adapt to their ever-changing surroundings.

Seepscape, image by Angela McQuillan

PROBIOME by Rebecca Hallac and Vincent Snagg

The common conception that all germs are bad is antiquated. Probiome is a probiotic spray containing the S. epidermidis bacteria designed to promote a healthy microbiome on the user’s hands. S. epidermidis is closely related to S. aureus, the bacteria known for causing a staph infection. When both types of bacteria exist on the skin surface, S. epidermidis has been shown to have the ability to promote the production of a skin barrier that inhibits the growth of skin pathogens such as S. aureus. In a nutshell, the “good” bacteria wins when put in competition with the “bad” bacteria.

The implications of this are huge. In a world where antibiotics are overused and resistance is increasing, a product that provides competing bacteria as an alternative is promising. Probiome is designed for use in the health industry where staph infections occur frequently. A motion-sensored spray bottle containing the bacteria is strategically placed at a shared computer in a hospital, and every person who uses the keyboard gets a spray as a preventative measure. Additionally, Probiome can be placed inside of a wearable device, kind of like a fitbit, so you can have your S. epidermidis on the go.

Probiome image by Angela McQuillan

This entire exhibition was interesting and thought provoking because each piece took a different approach to biotechnology and manipulated it creatively in order to perform a specific function. All of the projects were based in relevant areas of scientific study, and the designs were imaginative while also being plausible. (I use the word “plausible” because while these designs were executed physically they were not tested for longer term functionality). The most impressive aspect is that these designs were made in a relatively short period of time by students who were newly acquainted with the material. This type of cross-disciplinary approach to art and design is very important, and something that we need more of in Philadelphia. This work is important because it provides commentary and explores the cultural implications of biotechnological advancement, as well as presenting creative applications of technology to come up with unique solutions to problems.

BYO: Four Inquiries into Biological Design is unfortunately no longer on view, as it was a one night only event. If you would like to see more intriguing projects using biological design, you will have to wait until the next student exhibition at the end of the Spring semester. Until then, pick up a copy of Biobuilder by Natalie Kuldell, Rachel Bernstein, Karen Ingram and Kathryn M. Hart. This text provides hands-on lessons in synthetic biology for teachers and students, and is one of the primary texts used by Telhan and Hogan in their biological design course.

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Homework

For Your “Me” Time

Kat Zagaria has long been one of the most active members of the Philly arts community I know. A founding member of Paperclips215, Kat acted for a long time as their writer, which made sense, since she made it a point to be out and about, attending gallery openings in Kensington, Fishtown, North Philly, and Old City. Kat took me to my very first First Friday, where I made connections with theartblog, Little Berlin—where I’ve since performed—and Curate This co-founder Amanda V. Wagner.

Kat is leaving Philadelphia for at least a while, stepping away from her job at the Barnes Foundation to pursue an advanced degree in Modern and Contemporary Art History at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. We wanted to make sure to get her perspective on Philadelphia, as someone who knows and has seen more artists and art than most in her relatively brief tenure here.

-Julius Ferraro, co-founder

My confession is that I am a podcast and long-form journalism junkie. If I have down time, I am hooking up to one of those things. Below is a list of some of the most fascinating things I’ve read and listened to. Some of these articles are old, some are new, but all have kept me breathlessly entranced, and all have been reread and enjoyed by me time after time. All of them are enlightening and feature wonderful production and storytelling. I find myself telling friends about these stories, breathlessly recounting them at parties, on bike rides, at work – they all have struck a chord deep in me and I feel privileged to be able to share them with a wider audience.

To Read

Everything was fake but her wealth. This story has everything. Diamonds in a cereal box! Carriage rides in the evening in Central Park! Gambling! And a mystery identity?

How Not to Get Away with Murder. Take someone normal, now he’s having an affair, but feels like he can’t leave his wife, so what does he do? He hires a hit man. But the hit man has no intention of carrying out the job, so he strings him along . . . millions of dollars later . . . so crazy, you will talk about this for years to come.

New Yorker Article on Peter Paul Biro. Science meets art! How great that science can revolutionize the authentication process! But wait, something is lurking…wait…

What would happen if you drank water from the Gowanus Canal? The story of how one of the country’s most polluted waterways came to be located in one of the country’s most expensive neighborhoods. Also: dysentery, cancer, and arsenic poisoning.

I have sent this article to most, if not all, of my friends. It’s filled with fascinating science history, and is generally just a wonderful piece of journalism.

To Listen

The Allusionist – Mountweazel. Everything you thought you knew about dictionaries is WRONG.

Love + Radio –  The Living Room. This episode will make you laugh, and cry, and leave you absolutely stunned at a story that seems simple on its surface. It’s an emotional rollercoaster that makes the listener realize the subtle stereotypes that lurk within us all, and the ability to be pulled in by a story as a voyeur.

The Urbanist – Museums. Can a museum exist without a centralized space? Can it be a loosely connected network of cities? What happens when a museum sounds like a terrible idea to everyone but the citizens that it serves? These are all important questions, and this podcast should be sufficiently fascinating to even those outside of the museum world.

Criminal – Dropping Like Flies. This was a difficult choice, because Criminal is such an well-researched and impeccably produced podcast that I highly recommend all of its episodes. This one is about a crime ring in North Carolina that steals venus fly traps. Who knew! These things are in such high demand that people run into the woods with spoons to dig ’em up. Why? You’ll have to listen to learn more.

Nadia Botello. Photo by Mike Jackson, alrightmike.com

Homework

I Finally Realized I’m a Sound Artist

Nadia Botello is a sound artist, experimental composer, sound designer (and former synchronized swimmer!) based in Philadelphia. She is an advocate for women in electronic music (see: the illustrated history of women in electronic music at filiamusica.com), teaches children deep listening and the science of sound, and has composed, performed, and installed numerous works in LA, Philadelphia, and New York. If this weren’t enough, she is a loyal and present friend with a playful and courageous spirit. Learn more about her at www.nadiabotello.com.
– Alisha Adams, curator

I’ve been involved in the electronic music and sound communities for well over a decadeI started going to raves (and producing them) as a very young teenager, learned how to audio engineer at sixteen, tour managed and did event production, went to Sweden and wrote/recorded an analog synth improv record at twenty-one, got into sound design when I lived in Los Angeles for a number of years, learned how to build synthesizers, found myself collaboratively scoring experimental opera and dance, found a reason to begin performing live, made my way into the art world “proper,” and much more.

Despite all this time and experience, I often hesitated to identify as a “sound artist,” “experimental composer,” or “sound designer” until one pivotal evening in Los Angeles when I saw Suzanne Ciani give a retrospective and Q&A on her work and career as a composer and sound designer. She was a pioneer of modular synthesis and commercial sound design, and is considered one of the “godmothers” of new age electronic music. Listening to her that night made me realize that I was on a similar path, and it was incredibly empowering to see a woman engaging and succeeding in traditionally male-dominated areas of work. After that night, I sought to learn as much about the history of women in electronic music as I could. Because even though I had been creating it for years, I had a very limited idea about the vast influence many women had on the medium (and the tools to produce it!). Suzanneand the stories of these women—gave me the confidence to claim these identities, pursue a sound-based creative practice full-time, and (most importantly) to make my own way.

Over the last six months or so, I’ve been trying to connect the various women working in and around electronic music (broadly defined) across Philadelphia. As a creative community, Philadelphia can often feel compartmentalized; the academics are hanging with other academics, DJs are out with their crews, DIY artists are clustered in basements and warehouses, “fine artists” are showing in galleries, etc. There’s certainly a bit of cross-over, but why not traverse these worlds a little more? Philadelphia is home to some talented and wonderful women studying, performing, and engaging in electronic music practices. Connecting with each other (and the greater community at large) is something I’d really like to encourage. I believe there’s power in presence, visibility, and the sharing of knowledge and resources. We have so much to learn from each other.

Below are a few resources that I consider “jumping off” points to delve into a more comprehensive (but still incomplete) history of women in electronic music. Important for anyone who listens to, enjoys, or is curious about electronic music . . . but especially for women (and young girls) to know—our paths and creative practices are strengthened because of them. These are some of the women who came before. Let’s honor their influence.

Listen: Seven Hours of Women Making Electronic Music (1938-2014)

Watch: Suzanne Ciani’s sound design for Xenon (pinball)

Read (books): Pink Noises: Women on Electronic Music and Sound by Tara Rodgers // The Feminine Musique: Multimedia and Women Today and “On Writing for Multimedia” by Sabrina Peña Young // Women Composers And Music Technology in the United States: Crossing the Line by Elizabeth Hinkle-turner // Deep Listening: A Composer’s Sound Practice by Pauline Oliveros

Read (online): More articles & resources on women in electronic music

Photo by Mike Jackson, alrightmike.com

Friedrich Nietzsches mustache

Homework

Silence, Perfect Lives, Easy Rider

Peter Price is my husband, the father of my children, the co-director of <fidget>, and my long term collaborator for about 18 years, so to say I am biased in this introduction is a bit of an understatement. When I was sixteen I thought Peter was the most brilliant man I had ever met. In October we’ll have known each other for twenty years, and my opinion hasn’t changed much in all this time.

Peter’s form of intelligence is kind of a dying breed. Some would call him a cynic. He is staunchly resistant to the cultural imperative of positivity, and observes the world around him with more acuity than most. He’s quick to point out corruption, and has the ability to simultaneously regard situations from multiple perspectives. His most common response to any question, whether the subject is politics, art, philosophy, or even science, is “Well, it depends on how you look at it.” Peter is also probably one of the most insatiable “consumers” of culture that I know. When we first met, he read close to 100 books a year (since kids, he’s slowed down, a subject of constant disappointment to him, but this means he devotes more reading time to news articles and online cultural commentary). As a composer and musicologist, Peter has a formidable listening practice, and a collection of thousands of CD’s. With film and visual art, too, Peter has extensive knowledge and the ability to read long-term cultural trends and how they relate to social and historical events over long periods of time. Because of all of this, I was really excited to have Peter respond to prompt #18, “Homework.” His knowledge of so many different art forms is so expansive and so deep, I thought this would be a real treat for any reader. But, then again, I’m biased.

– Curator Megan Bridge

The Magic Flute (1791) – Mozart

Adorno heard in The Magic Flute the last moment before the disastrous split in western music between high and low, serious and popular, the academy and the culture industry. But more than this The Magic Flute is one of the strongest arguments for Opera’s meaningfulness as a genre.

On Truth and Lie in a Nonmoral Sense (1873) – Nietzsche

Set aside everything you think you ‘know’ about ‘knowing’ and then start over with this short essay. Should be required reading in High School.

The Question Concerning Technology (1954) – Heidegger

Its easy to dismiss Heidegger what with his being a Nazi, but I don’t know a sharper insight into the essence of the event of technology. Give it to your favorite techno-optimist.

Silence (1961) – John Cage

The number of artists of all kinds (not just musicians) who claim to have had their life changed by reading this book is legion, so if you have not given it a try, why not?

The Revolution of Everyday Life (1967) – Raoul Vaneigem

Hugely over-shadowed by the other great theoretical text of the May ’68 generation Society of the Spectacle, Vaneigem’s ‘guide for living for young people’ can remind us at any age that lived experience does not need to collapse into a hyper-mediated consumerist dystopia. Read it and then find a smart 17 year old who is an artist, or in love, or angry at the world’s injustice and give your copy to them.

Easy Rider (1969) – This may be the quintessential film of the American ‘new wave’ cinema of the late 1960s, and should be on any short list of great American films. Watch it for one of Jack Nicholson’s finest performances (mostly improvised), Lazlo Kovac’s cinematography, the mute solipsism of Peter Fonda’s embodiment of the 60s zeitgeist, and the madness of Denis Hopper’s directorial vision.

Einstein on the Beach (1976) – Philip Glass, Robert Wilson, Lucinda Childs and others

Some collaborations are much more than the sum of the collaborator’s contributions. This is one of those. Hopefully there will be video documentation of the whole work some day, but in the meantime watch the 1984 documentary about it and set aside 4 hours to listen to the music without pause(!!) at least once.

Perfect Lives, Private Parts (1984) – Robert Ashley

Some day Robert Ashley (who died in 2014) will be considered one of the most important artists of the late 20th century. His works fall between genres in a way that deeply complicates his historical reception. Is he a composer, a kind of poet, even novelist, a performance artist (in the New York 1980s sense?) Perfect Lives, Private Parts was conceived as an ‘Opera for Television’ and exists complete on DVD. Watch it in one sitting or one of its 7 episodes at a time. The libretto exists as a book about which John Cage said “What about the Bible? And the Koran? It doesn’t matter: We have Perfect Lives.” So after reading Silence, read Perfect Lives.